Thai journalist group outlines goals for 'Year of Media Reform'

Thai journalist group outlines goals for 'Year of Media Reform'
During political rallies by the opposing sides, protesters used many measures to threaten journalists, including surrounding them while they were doing their job and harassing their offices in an attempt to pressure the media to take their side.

The Thai Journalists Association has named 2015 the "Year of Media Reform", calling for all parties to join in solving problems related to the news media.

A statement issued by the TJA yesterday said that in 2014, the media had to work in a situation of political conflicts, which led to violence that killed and injured many people including nine journalists. The wrongdoers have not been arrested or convicted.

During political rallies by the opposing sides, protesters used many measures to threaten journalists, including surrounding them while they were doing their job and harassing their offices in an attempt to pressure the media to take their side.

This is considered interference in the media's professional duty to report on an objective, fair and all-around basis, as well as the opening of the public sphere for freedom of expression so people can exercise their rights responsibly.

However, some media were criticised for being part of the conflicts while failing to provide the facts based on evidence fairly.

Some reporters and media outlets were also abused as political tools. They also disseminated content that violated people's human rights or added fuel to the fire.

Meanwhile, regulatory bodies including the National Broadcasting and Telecommunica-tions Commission failed to take proper measures, the TJA said.

After the military seized power, all types of television and radio were closed under martial law. The military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order later gradually allowed outlets to operate but still issued Announcements 97 and 103 to control the work of the media.

From time to time the NCPO and military-appointed government summoned or invited editors and media owners for meetings. This unavoidably affected the free flow of information and people's freedom of expression, the TJA said.

Media reform is one of 11 areas earmarked for changes by the National Reform Council in the interim constitution.

This reflects the importance and urgency in solving problems related to the media.

The TJA, which has been working to protect freedom of the press and to promote media professionalism, will turn 60 on March 5.

It has come up with a "Freedom with Responsibility" campaign at this time of reform of the media and news people.

In 2015, the TJA urges all people to realise the importance of the public sphere for the freedom of expression in a democratic system. At the same time, the media should be regarded as balancing its roles of being a public service and a business simultaneously.

The TJA insists that freedom of expression be ensured by the constitution and that people who comply with the law should be able to express their opinions without fear.

The group also insists that all media practitioners, including professional, community and civic journalists, stick to a code of ethics and enjoy their freedoms responsibly. Meanwhile, the media must be free from political, financial and other influence.

Cross-media ownership deserves the right model of regulation.

Moreover, journalists deserve reasonable salaries and benefits so they can work and live in society with dignity.

They also deserve opportunities and access to training and professional development.

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